Page 7, 21st August 1981

21st August 1981
Page 7
Page 7, 21st August 1981 — Listening to God's word

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Organisations: Divine Office
People: God, Jesus


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Listening to God's word

NOT SO long ago, there was a general consensus that to fulfil your Sunday Mass obligation. you had to he in the church by the beginning of the Offertory. This attitude led to the first part of the Mass being considered as unimportant.

One of the major changes in the renewal of the liturgy has been the importance attached to the liturgy of the word. In the words of the general instruction on the Roman Missal: "Although the Mass is made up of the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the eucharist, the two parts are so closely connected as to form one act of worship.

"The table of God's word and of Christ's body is prepared and from it the faithful are instructed and nourished."

The recent instruction Inaestimabile Donum includes the following remarkable passage: "A person should not approach the table of the bread of the Lord without having first been at the table of his word." No longer can there be any doubt that the liturgy of the word is a very important part of the Mass. As the Church teaches, "When the scriptures are read in the ('hurch, God himself speaks to his people, and it is Christ, present in his word, who proclaims the Gospel."

The texts for the liturgy of the word on Sundays were carefully chosen and are based on the Gospel reading. To allow us to hear the Gospels almost in their entirety, the Church decided on a three-year cycle of readings: Year A is the Year of Matthew; Year B is the Year of ‘Iark; and Year C is the Year of Luke.

The Gospel of John is reserved for the special seasons of the year and especially Easter. His wry special teaching on the Eucharist over several Sundays in rear B.

When Jesus went about preaching, he knew the contents of the Jewish Bible, which we now know as the Old Testament. Since Jesus himself was formed by this teaching, it is important that we come to know and understand this part of the Bible. The Church has therefore chosen texts from the Old Testament which either harmonise with the Gospel or throw some light on its message.

Again Jesus was familiar with the psalms and used them as his prayer. They would have been as natural to him as breathing, and those w ho use the psalms regularly in the Divine Office know how beautiful they are.

The psalm which follows the first reading is intended to be a meditation on the theme of that reading. It should normally be sung, since psalms are really hymns and it makes as little sense to say a psalm as to say a hymn.

If the psalm must be said, it should be read as a piece of poetry with care and sensitivity, and not just rushed through. The people should be encouraged to join in their response, whether the psalm is said or sung.

The second reading creates something of a problem. In the major seasons of the year, Easter, Lent, Christmas, Advent, it is chosen to suit the theme of the other readings.

In the Ordinary Sundays of the Year (the Green Sundays) however, the readings from St Paul follow on one from the other each Sunday so that we may follow the development of Paul's teaching as he wrote to the young Churches in the early days of Christianity.

This means that in most Sundays, there are two themes in every Mass; the main or Gospel theme and the secondary theme from the letter of St Paul.

The Alleluia verse which follows is part of the proclamation of the Gospel. All stand to acclaim the Gospel as, with lights and incense, the deacon {or priest) solemnly comes to proclaim the Good News. The Alleluia verse is intended for singing and if this is not possible, it may be omitted.

After the Gospel at all Masses on Sundays and holy days of obligation comes the muchmaligned homily. This is not intended to be a catechetical instruction, and certainty not an appeal for money. It is, or

should be, a living expression of God's word and should be applied to our lives.

It is a most important part of the Mass and, for the priest, a most difficult thing to do well. It obviously involves a great deal of prayer and much thought and some priests find it helpful to discuss the homily with the parish liturgy committee.

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